Dan Quisenberry, the star reliever of the Kansas City Royals who was known for his delivery of submarine-style pitches on the mound and one-line quips off the field, died yesterday at his home in Kansas City, Mo. He was 45.
Quisenberry had been suffering from brain cancer. He underwent surgery on Jan. 8 for removal of 80 to 90 percent of a tumor, then had surgery again in June when the cancer spread.
Quisenberry could not blow a pitch past a batter, prompting him to bemoan his Peggy Lee fastball, as in ''Is That All There Is?'' He was not imposing on the mound -- his 6-foot-2-inch, 180-pound frame was nothing special and his bushy red mustache never seemed very sinister. But Quisenberry had superb control, forcing hitters to grind his sinker into the dirt instead of waiting for the pitch they wanted.
The movement on his sinkerball, and the unorthodox style with which Quisenberry delivered it -- bringing his right hand within six inches of the mound as he began his motion -- made him the major leagues' premier relief pitcher during the first half of the 1980's.
Quisenberry set what was then a major league record for saves in 1983, compiling 45, and he had 44 saves the following year. Except for the strike-shortened 1981 season, he led the American League in saves every year from 1980 to 1985, and his total of 244 places him 17th on the career list.
He pitched for the Royals in the 1980 and 1985 World Series and was a three-time American League All-Star. His career record was 56-46.
And Quisenberry was durable, never going on the disabled list. In 674 major league games -- with the Royals from 1979 to mid-1988, the St. Louis Cardinals for a season and a half and the San Francisco Giants briefly in 1990 -- Quisenberry never started a game.
After Quisenberry's rookie year of 1979, his manager, Jim Frey, impressed with the performance of the Pirate submariner Kent Tekulve against the Orioles in the World Series, asked Tekulve to tutor Quisenberry.
Although he had been pitching sidearm-style, the transformation befuddled Quisenberry at first. But he soon flourished as a submariner.
Quisenberry became one of baseball's highest-paid players, signing a so-called lifetime contract in 1985 that included a long-term real estate venture with the Royals' co-owner Avron Fogelman. The deal was estimated to be worth at least $40 million.
Amid all his success, Quisenberry, who is survived by his wife, Janie; a daughter, Alysia, 18, and a son, David, 17, reveled in poking fun at himself. After losing to the Phillies in Game 5 of the 1980 World Series -- the second time Philadelphia had rallied to beat him -- Quisenberry remarked how ''we have our backs against the Berlin Wall -- East side.''
After the Royals defeated the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, President Reagan phoned the Kansas City locker room and spoke to Quisenberry. He mistakenly called him Jim.
A week later the Royals were invited to the White House Rose Garden, at a time when the President's differences with his chief of staff, Donald Regan, were well publicized. The President apologized to Quisenberry for getting his first name wrong.
Quisenberry replied, ''That's O.K., Don.''